Category Archives: Uncategorized

That’s Some Interesting Packing

The Curmudgeon’s EZ Pass transponder fell off his windshield a few months ago, and after a number of tries at jerry-rigging a new way to reattach it – The Curmudgeon is NOT a handy guy – he finally gave in, went to Amazon.com, and purchased an appropriate adhesive tape.

Pictured below is the package with the adhesive tape and the box in which it arrived.

A little overkill, no?

The Trump Watch: Late March 2017

The Curmudgeon continues his periodic look at life under the big top of the Trump administration, with an emphasis on appalling aspects of it that in some cases may be flying a little under the radar.

The Crux of a Presidency

Now, I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject.  Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.

Actually, Mr. President, they did.  In fact, damn near EVERYONE knew it was so complicated.  That you didn’t, that you express such surprise that it is, may say more about your fitness for the office than anything you’ve ever said.

Even the Billy Bush stuff.

What’s Sauce for the Goose…

What do kids and Congress have in common? Recess!

When Congress took a brief recess recently – and The Curmudgeon has always been amused that the legislative branch of government uses the same term as third-graders to describe a brief respite from the regular routine – many returned home to face (or, in many cases, to dodge) constituents who suddenly realized that Obamacare was the only thing standing between them and death and no longer want it repealed.  Comrade Trump tweeted that the angry town hall gatherings were, well, trumped up.

The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists.  Sad!

Hmmm:  angry crowds inspired by activists:  sounds an awful lot like the tea party crowds that greeted Democratic members of Congress during the first few months of Barack Obama’s presidency.

Obama’s shadow government

The Shadow Knows

But the conspiracy theorist in Comrade Trump has other ideas about those protesters – because, well, if at first your conspiracy theory doesn’t capture the public’s imagination, try, try again.

So who else might be behind those angry protests?

I think that President Obama is behind it because his people certainly are behind it.  In terms of him being behind things, that’s politics.  It will probably continue.

The (conspiracy) theory is that former President Obama is running a shadow government trying to undermine The Donald.  The Curmudgeon recently shared a video of a member of Congress trying to tell this to an audience the congressman clearly thought was full of idiots, because no one else would swallow such nonsense.

Hey – Nobody Said There’d Be Math!

Not Exactly a Rounding Error

While ignoring those interested in preserving the increase in how many Americans have health insurance, Comrade Trump found time to meet with executives of health insurance companies:  you know, leaders of an entire industry that, if it disappeared tomorrow, would leave the country a better place and health care costs far, far lower.  Bemoaning Obamacare’s failure, he lamented all those people who decided to pay the financial penalty for failure to purchase insurance instead of buying insurance.

How many such people?  Nearly 20 million, the president said.

Not quite:  the actual figure:  6.5 million in 2015.

As Maxwell Smart so often said, “Missed it by THAT much.”

The Math is a Little Off

“Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force,” Comrade Trump tells us, implying that there are ninety-four million people out there looking for work who can’t find any.

Ninety-four million?  Not even close.

“I wanna work construction.” I”ve got my eye on the fryer at McDonald’s.” “How about you?”

That number includes college students.

And people who are retired – like The Curmudgeon’s eighty-two-year-old mother.

And the disabled.

And somewhere between seven and eight million people who are actually out of work and looking for jobs.

But why would the president let a little thing like the truth get in the way of a good story?

More Bad Math

The president likes to say the U.S. has spent $6 trillion on the recent wars in the middle east.

The actual number is $1.6 trillion.

Which is just a tad less.

The man’s capacity for making up stuff – okay, for lying – is amazing.  There’s no shame, not even a hint of it.

5-4-3-2-1…

Republicans and their leader, Comrade Trump, don’t like Obamacare.  Well, that’s their right:  they’re entitled to their opinion.

One of the challenges with Obamacare has been that it’s been so hard to predict how many people would get insurance through Obamacare, whether premiums would rise or fall, whether all the states would expand their Medicaid programs, and more.  So Comrade Trump left a lot of people shaking their heads when, noting that Obamacare was getting worse rather than better, he explained that

[20]’17 would be a disaster for Obamacare.  That’s the year it was meant to explode because Obama won’t be there.  That was when it was supposed to be even worse.

“Meant to explode,” he said, doing so with a straight face and without his head exploding.

“I see an implosion in 2017. No, 2018. No, seriously, 2017, I’m certain, I think.”

Think about that:  Comrade Trump is suggesting that the same people who couldn’t figure out how Obamacare would unfold, who got so many projections wrong, who weren’t very smart people anyway, somehow had the knowledge and expertise to time Obamacare’s growing problems to coincide with their president’s departure from office.

Unbelievable.

Time for a Pause

Vacation’s all I ever wanted…

Oops, it’s the weekend as The Curmudgeon writes this part of this blog entry and The Curmudgeon doesn’t work on weekends.  Time to get in his plane and fly off to his Florida weekend home.

What Comes Around Goes Around

Candidate Donald Trump loved leaks:  loved the leaks that cost Debbie Wasserman Schultz her gig as chair of the Democratic National Committee, loved the leaks that contributed to Hillary Clinton’s loss of voter support, loved all the leaks that helped his candidacy.

Now?  Not such a big fan.

The Washington Post recently reported that Trump is “…mad – steaming, raging mad” – about all of the leaks coming out of his administration.

In fact, those leakers are people very close to him.  After all, how many people do you think were in the room when he had his obnoxious telephone conversations with the president of Mexico and the prime minister of Australia?  Not only are the people around him leaking, but the leakers almost certainly are some of the people who are closest to him and whom he trusts the most.

Who’s leaking?

Who could the leakers be?  It’s hard to say, but those who are closest to him appear to be Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner, and Reince Priebus.  Conway’s probably not in the room when a lot of those conversations are being held, so it’s probably one of the others.  Surely Comrade Trump knows this, and it must be devastating to realize that someone you trust so completely has betrayed you so thoroughly.  (For what it’s worth, The Curmudgeon’s money is on Bannon.)

Does He or Doesn’t He…

…want to repeal Obamacare?  He said so when he ran for president – said it again and again and again – and has said so countless times since he took office.  In fact, he said it yesterday – and then kind of unsaid it.

How do we explain him publicly declaring that “The Republicans, frankly, are putting themselves in a very bad position – I tell this to Tom Price all the time – by repealing Obamacare.”

Say what?

Because people aren’t gonna see the truly devastating effects of Obamacare.  They’re not gonna see the devastation.  In ’17 and ’18 and ’19, it’ll be gone by then.  Whether we do it or not, it’ll be imploded off the map.

He’s also suggested that Republicans just abandon their repeal efforts, let the current situation deteriorate, and then blame Democrats for the problems.

What to make of this?  On one hand he says it’s going to implode, or just deteriorate, on the other, that Republicans shouldn’t want to repeal it or shouldn’t do anything about it.

So what does he want to do – let it implode and hurt millions of people?  Is THAT what the president of the United States wants to do?

“Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the best, most fantastic, absolutely most terrific person of them all?”

The Narcissist Grades His Performance

In terms of messaging, I would give myself a C or a C plus…

the president told Fox & Friends.

Take note, Kellyanne and Melissa McCarthy:  your boss just put you on the hot seat.

But then…

 In terms of achievement, I think I’d give myself an A.  Because I think I’ve done great things, but I don’t think I have – I and my people, I don’t think we’ve explained it well enough to the American people.

So this raises a natural question: what on earth does the man thing he’s accomplished?

The Income Tax Leak

You may be surprised to learn that The Curmudgeon isn’t a fan of Rachel Maddow, mostly because he’s not a fan of being talked down to.  She can be very, very good, but she also can pick some strange things to obsess about – endlessly.

But Maddow was on television in the background last week and when The Curmudgeon heard her tease a special report about Trump’s tax returns he dismissed it as probably just another report in which there was no new information, just a few minutes for Maddow to complain about the lack of tax returns.  But when he heard Maddow refer to David Cay Johnston as the source of the information he put down his book (Live From New York: An Uncensored History Of Saturday Night Live) and gave the television his full attention because he knows that Johnston is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who once worked for the New York Times and is actually a very credible reporter.

Of course Comrade Trump did not agree, so he tweeted,

Does anybody really believe that a reporter, who nobody ever heard of, “went to his mailbox” and found my tax returns? @NBCNews FAKE NEWS!

Well, Donnie, a lot of people know who Johnston is, a lot of people have heard of him, and your own staff immediately confirmed the authenticity of the tax return he shared with the public.

In other words, Mr. President, your own people confirmed that the report was REAL NEWS!

So The Curmudgeon’s verdict is “FAKE OBJECTION, NUMNUTS!”

The Wiretap

 The Allegation

Bwaaaaaahaaaaaaaahaaaaaaaahaaaaaaa!

But That’s Not What He Meant

Who wired Trump Tower? The Curmudgeon’s money is on McNulty

It took the White House about four days to get around to attempting to walk back the president’s allegation that the Obama administration, and perhaps President Obama himself, tapped the phones at Trump Tower.  (And can’t you just break out in giggles at the thought of Barack Obama himself sneaking into Trump Tower at two in the morning and placing a bug in a vase or under the table or maybe behind a toilet and then quickly checking out Trump’s computer for porn before sneaking out?)  When they did, the White House based its defense of the president on punctuation, of all things, noting that the president had referred to wiretaps – or wiretapps, if you will – in quotation marks, suggesting that he didn’t mean literal wiretapps.  And the truth is that two of Trump’s wiretapp tweets did refer to wiretapps in quotation marks.  They are:

Mar 4, 2017 06:35:20 AM Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!

and…

Mar 4, 2017 06:49:00 AM Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!

In pursuing this approach to the considerable challenge of defending the indefensible, White House court jester and fashion icon Sean Spicer conveniently overlooked two tweets that made the allegation more directly – and without the quotation marks:

Mar 4, 2017 06:52:54 AM I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!

and…

 Mar 4, 2017 07:02:48 AM How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!

The British are Coming, the British are Coming!

The only Brit up to the task…

Coming to tapp, the president claims.  That’s right:  he’s now saying the Obama administration prevailed on the British to do its dirty work for it and wiretapp the Trump Tower phones during the campaign.

Sounds like a job for Austin Powers, international man of mystery.

And One More Thing About Spying

If the Trump administration seems a little sensitive on the subject of wiretapping, maybe it’s because it’s not above a little spying of its own.  As last Sunday’s Washington Post reported:

Most members of President Trump’s Cabinet do not yet have leadership teams in place or even nominees for top deputies. But they do have an influential coterie of senior aides installed by the White House who are charged — above all — with monitoring the secretaries’ loyalty, according to eight officials in and outside the administration.

 This shadow government of political appointees with the title of senior White House adviser is embedded at every Cabinet agency, with offices in or just outside the secretary’s suite. The White House has installed at least 16 of the advisers at departments including Energy and Health and Human Services and at some smaller agencies such as NASA, according to records first obtained by ProPublica through a Freedom of Information Act request.

 These aides report not to the secretary, but to the Office of Cabinet Affairs, which is overseen by Rick Dearborn, a White House deputy chief of staff, according to administration officials. A top Dearborn aide, John Mashburn, leads a weekly conference call with the advisers, who are in constant contact with the White House.

In other words, the Trump administration is spying on itself and is routinely saddling its cabinet secretaries with high-ranking tattletales they can’t trust.

A Thought About the Controversial Travel Bans

The U.S. needs a crack investigator to check out all these immigrants

When the Trump administration issued its first anti-Muslim travel ban – the one the courts overturned – it said it was only a temporary ban because it needed three months to figure out how to do a better job investigating people before admitting them to this country.

Well, tic toc, tic toc…

That first travel ban was issued on January 27.  That was two months ago.

So why did the second travel ban, issued March 6, seek the same three months’ ban?  Haven’t they even started yet?  Shouldn’t six more weeks have been enough to complete the work needed to decide how to review entry applications more thoroughly?

And now that the second travel ban has temporarily been overturned and the Trump legal elves are no doubt furiously drafting a third, what possible rationale can there be for again seeking a three-month travel ban when, very soon, the entire three months they originally sought will have passed?

Or can’t these people do more than one thing at a time?

Tic toc, tic toc…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Latest in Sales Tax Policy

Well, not quite the latest, but pretty strange nonetheless.

Can I get one today mom? There's no sales tax!

Can I get one today mom? There’s no sales tax!

That’s the news out of Tennessee recently, where a bill now before the state legislature would create a sales tax holiday for…

…guns and ammunition.

This is not a misprint.

Or as the bill’s brain surgeon of a sponsor calls it, a “second amendment sales tax holiday.”

As appalling as this idea is, it is not, believe it or not, the first of its kind:  last year Louisiana and Mississippi both held weekend sales tax holidays for guns.

Because like some other nitwits we have to suffer, these folks think the key to reducing gun violence is to put guns in the hands of even more people than already have them.

And further evidence that when you pick up the United States by its ankles and shake it really, really hard, all the loose marbles fall to places like Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi (and of course, Texas).

 

Which Jared is More Qualified to Advise the President of the United States?

Also known as Mr. Ivanka Trump

Also known as number 2730-9921

Another Battle in the War Against Working People: Wendy’s

The Curmudgeon always gets a kick out of entrepreneurs and corporate executives who refer to themselves as “job creators,” especially when those executives and entrepreneurs run for public office and say their expertise in creating jobs qualifies them for public office.

No one goes into business with the idea that “I’m going to create jobs.”  No, the motivating force is “I’m going to make money” – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Unfortunately for these folks, many of them find that they need to employ people to make money, but if a company that makes a million dollars with 10 employees figures out a way to make that same million with nine employees, you can bet the family dog that it’s going to show one of those 10 employees to the door.  And if they aspire to make $2 million and decide they need three more people to rise to that next level, they’ll hire three more people – but to help them make more money, not so they can “create jobs.”

Say hello to Wendy’s, the fast food giant that believes even $7.25 an hour is too much money to lavish on the people who take your order and soak your potatoes in sizzling animal fat and has hatched a plan to put the least employable among us out of work by introducing self-service ordering kiosks in, you should pardon the expression, its restaurants.  The company recently announced it will place such devices in at least 1000 of its units by the end of 2017 and more in the coming years.

So times must be tough for Wendy’s, right, if it’s going to such lengths to cut costs?

Well, not so much:  same store sales have risen for 16 straight quarters, the value of the company’s stock is up 46 percent in the last year, it raised its quarterly dividend, and it has so much money it has no use for that it’s allegedly buying back $150 million worth of its own stock.  (The Curmudgeon uses “allegedly” when it comes to the stock buyback because large corporations are notorious for announcing stock buybacks, reaping the benefits of the increase in the stock value that follows such announcements, and then failing to follow through on the actual buyback.)

wendysSo what’s the problem?  Greed is the problem:  Wendy’s is making money hand over fist, but a lot is not enough and it wants more, and if it takes putting people out on the street to do it, well, then that’s just fine with the people who run Wendy’s.

People like Todd Penegor, the president and CEO who, when he was president and CFO two years ago only made $2.7 million.

And Robert Wright, who as executive vice president and chief operating officer two years ago was paid $2.1 million.

And Scott Weisberg, who as CPO – chief petty officer? – had to skate by on a measly $1.5 million a year in 2015.

Seriously, how can these guys expect to keep their families in iPhones and private schools if Wendy’s has to pay a full-time employee $10 an hour, which amounts to $1733 a month or $20,800 a year to support a family?  Why should the families of these executives and their fellow corporate executives, and the families of their shareholders, have to sacrifice the summer place on Martha’s Vineyard or the ski lodge in Aspen so the families of their minimum wage employees can enjoy the obscene luxury of, oh, heat in their apartments in the winter?

Think about this the next time you get a hankering for some fast food – and think about satisfying that hankering somewhere else instead, someplace that doesn’t have such colossal contempt for the very working people they’re in business to serve – because you know Wendy’s doesn’t make its money serving people like Penegor, Wright, Weisberg, and their families.

 

Have the Changing Times Made This Practice Obsolete?

With the day off for President’s Day a few weeks ago, The Curmudgeon visited a branch of his bank located across the parking lot from a movie theater and noticed cars in the lot surprisingly early in the day.  The teller explained that the theater was taking advantage of kids being home from school for the day to show a few kid-friendly matinees.

kidsThis led The Curmudgeon to think back to his own childhood, when his mother would drop him and his younger brother off at the movie theater and then pick them up when the movie was over.  There were two theaters where she would do this, one near our house and one near our grandparents, and when she dropped us off she would be very clear about where we should stand after the movie let out to ensure that she could find us in the crowd of kids leaving at the same time.  The Curmudgeon is pretty sure mom was doing this by the time The Curmudgeon was 11 or 12.

And that left The Curmudgeon wondering:  do moms (or dads) still drop off 11- and 12-year-olds at movie theaters and pick them up two hours later or do they now view the world as too dangerous a place to do that anymore?  Must they now choose between skipping the movies or spending two hours suffering through entertainment not created to entertain them in way just so their kids can enjoy themselves?

The CIA Unveils the Latest in Spyware

Man Wrestles…Deer

And wins!

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that when a deer crashed through the window of a supermarket in Manchester, Pennsylvania, a customer channeled his inner Hulk Hogan, said to himself “Game on,” and decided to take on the deer as it charged through the fruit and vegetables section on its way to the bakery department.

deerOkay, so any deer that skips past the vegetables and toward the bakery is clearly The Curmudgeon’s kind of deer.

As you can see from this photo, the poor deer never stood a chance.

Eventually the Macho Man helped the deer to his feet and the deer thanked him by kicking him and knocking him down, which is only an appropriate rebuke for daring to wrestle a deer. The deer, fearing that the match might be best two falls out of three and now parched from this encounter, apparently headed off in the direction of a nearby Starbucks, no doubt in search of liquid refreshment and a quick jolt of caffeine after the unexpected resistance it encountered on its way to the crumpets and scones.

Step Aside, Kellyanne

Kellyanne Conway is now famous for, among other things, her citation of “alternative facts” as part of her objection to how news organizations reported on the size of the crowd at Comrade Trump’s inauguration.

Earlier this week, new Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney launched himself into Conway’s orbit when, objecting to how the Congressional Budget Office “scored” the Republican health care bill, declared that “I don’t believe the facts are correct.”

Seriously, that’s what he said:  “I don’t believe the facts are correct.”

What’s wrong with these people?

There’s Stephen Miller, the really scary “you will not deny” guy about whom The Curmudgeon wrote a few weeks ago.

And now there’s Mulvaney on top of Conway.  (Okay, now The Curmudgeon is trying to get the image of Mulvaney on top of Conway out of his head.)

Conway, of course, didn’t really mean “alternative facts.”  She was trying to say there were additional factors that the news organizations weren’t taking into consideration when reporting on the size of the Trump audience, but instead of saying “additional facts” or “other facts” she said, in a phrase that will live in infamy, “alternative facts.”

And this Trump spokesman managed to pull his foot out of his mouth long enough for the rest of us to see that he came to work wearing different shoes on Monday. Yikes.

And Mulvaney was trying to say that he disputed the accuracy of the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate but instead said that he didn’t believe the facts are correct.  He meant that the Congressional Budget Office’s conclusions were opinions or estimates or projections and not actually facts, but instead he said he disagreed with the facts.

Facts, of course, are facts and not subject to dispute.

Also not subject to dispute:  the people Comrade Trump is trotting out there to articulate his views are astonishingly inarticulate and apparently incapable of making their case without lodging their feet deep, deep into their mouths.

A Quick Thought About the Coming Changes in Health Care

The Curmudgeon isn’t wedded to what’s become known as “Obamacare,” but he’s also not interested in scuttling it solely for scuttling’s sake. Show him something better, even if you want to call it “Trumpcare,” and he’ll hold his nose and be happy to support it.

But he had to chuckle when he read a newspaper report last week that explained that

House Republicans scored a pre-dawn triumph Thursday in their effort to scuttle former President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, but it masked deeper problems as hospitals, doctors and consumer groups mounted intensifying opposition to the GOP health care drive.

So, hospitals and doctors oppose it, huh?

Just so you know: hospitals and doctors opposed Medicare.

Hospitals and doctors opposed Medicaid.

Hospitals and doctors decide what they support or oppose based on THEIR interests, mostly their personal and financial interests, and not on YOUR interests or those of the average consumer.

So the idea that hospitals and doctors oppose what Congress is currently considering should carry no weight – zero, zilch, nada – when you look at the plan and consider whether YOU should support it.